Toronto and other Ontario municipalities will be under more pressure to cut spending if the Progressive Conservatives form the next provincial government, Premier Dalton McGuinty warned Tuesday.
As Toronto braces for proposed new cuts to deal with a massive budget shortfall, the Liberal leader is courting taxpayers in Canada's most populous city, a key battleground in the upcoming Oct. 6 election.
"I can also say this to Toronto taxpayers: we are very committed to continuing to upload social service responsibilities which were downloaded by a previous government," he said after touring two plants in Toronto that manufacture components for solar panels.
"Our uploading in fact will save $170 million in new costs for Toronto property taxpayers."
Tory Leader Tim Hudak won't commit to continue removing that financial burden from municipalities, McGuinty added.
"Mr. Hudak opposes that, so he's going to saddle Toronto property taxpayers with that $170 million," he said. "That's even more pressure that's on the way as a result if we had a PC government."
Liberal officials said they've uploaded $600 million to date from municipalities in welfare and court security costs.
If re-elected, the Liberals have pledged to continue uploading a further $171 million from Toronto by 2018.
Hudak won't promise to continue uploading those costs, but the Conservative platform pledges to give all Ontario municipalities a share of the gas tax.
Rising wages squeezing municipalities, Tories say
The Tories also say rising wages are squeezing municipal finances due to a broken arbitration system, which McGuinty has neglected to fix.
Toronto's city manager released the final report of a core services review Monday, recommending which jobs, services and city-run attractions should be cut in the face of a massive budget shortfall.
Joe Pennachetti said the recommendations include either finding buyers for the Toronto Zoo and Riverdale Farm or shutting them down.
The report also recommended closing some museums and libraries as well as looking for efficiencies in transit, fire and emergency services. Reducing grass-cutting and snow-clearing services and subsidized child care spaces were among other proposals.
The proposed cuts and reductions would result in up to $300 million in savings over a four-year period, Pennachetti said, adding more than 1,100 city workers have applied for a voluntary separation program.